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Teach the Vote’s Week in Review: June 23, 2023

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

Retirement | TRS | Social Security Texas Legislature Congress | Federal TEA | Commissioner | SBOE Privatization | Vouchers Deregulation | Charter Schools Miscellaneous

Date Posted: 6/23/2023

The ATPE Governmental Relations team recaps the past week’s education news, legislative and election updates, and regulatory developments.

VETOES: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed 45 bills over the final weekend of the veto period, which ended June 18. Among the vetoes were nine House bills authored by representatives who took an anti-voucher stance in the regular session. The vetoed House bills related to campaign expenditures, professional licensure requirements, and the creation of municipal utility districts—matters important to state and local constituents but unrelated to public education. When announcing the vetoes, Abbott stated these bills could be passed in a special session “only after educational freedom has passed.”

This move sparked criticism from ATPE Executive Director Shannon Holmes, who released the following statement: “Gov. Abbott seems to have forgotten that lawmakers are elected to represent their constituents in Austin, not do his bidding. Vetoing legislation because of a lawmaker’s position on an unrelated issue is a misuse of power, and every Texan should be appalled. It takes lots of time and taxpayer dollars to get any bill across the finish line, and the governor is willing to waste both to score national political points.”

Read more in this blog post by ATPE Lobbyist Tricia Cave.

US_Capitol.pngWEP: On Wednesday, U.S. House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard E. Neal (D–MA) reintroduced his legislation to address the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The bill seeks to provide meaningful relief to current WEP retirees and fix the WEP for future retirees. For years, Neal and former Texas Republican Congressman Kevin Brady had championed a bipartisan approach to Social Security reform before ultimately coming to an impasse over the details of their respective plans during the last congressional session. Read the full press release and find resources related to the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2023.

Read our member-adopted ATPE Legislative Program and TRS and Social Security page to learn more about ATPE’s positions on educator retirement.

SBOE: During the State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting Wednesday, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath told the board that this September’s A-F accountability ratings for public schools would not represent an “apples to apples” comparison with last year’s ratings. This announcement raised concerns among SBOE members as the recalculation Morath outlined is expected to result in a sizeable drop in accountability ratings.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is also expected to call a special session around the same time that TEA is expected to artificially downgrade public school ratings. The timing is noteworthy because this false appearance of a decline in performance will likely be used to manufacture another false narrative around the need for privatization. ATPE Senior Lobbyist Mark Wiggins provides a full recap of Wednesday’s meeting in this blog post.

The board also approved four applicants to open new charter school chains, requested updates on the state takeover of Houston ISD, and voted to amend its operating rules to expand the window in which charter applicants are allowed to lobby SBOE members. The four charter approvals represented a reversal of preliminary votes taken Wednesday, as Wiggins shares in this report on Friday’s SBOE activity.

STUDENT DISCIPLINE: An opinion issued this week by Texas’ Acting Attorney General John Scott states that the Texas Equal Rights Amendment of the Texas Constitution prohibits any race-based student disciplinary decision, even if motivated by guidance from the U.S. Department of Education to avoid discrimination in student discipline. Opinion No. JS-0003 was requested by Rep. Stephanie Klick (R–Fort Worth) and is a renewal of a previously closed opinion request. Although AG opinions are non-binding, they hold great sway among governmental entities, including school districts.

PAXTON IMPEACHMENT: The Senate released the rules governing the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Wednesday night. The rules include a provision that Sen. Angela Paxton (R–McKinney), who is the AG’s wife, may be present and seated for the trial but will not be allowed to take place in votes or deliberations. The trial will start Sept. 5. The timing is significant because it is likely to coincide with an expected September special session on vouchers. Vouchers and the impeachment proceedings are both extremely hot-button political issues. Even when unrelated, the concurrence of such turbulent issues could produce unpredictable reactions.



Deann Lee

Still a lot going on even in summer, and y’all are there for all of it! Thank you!

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